Megan Gilkes: “I want to be a Formula 1 driver”

From a town in Canada to being on the brink of making it in the motor-racing history books, Megan Gilkes’ career currently hangs in the balance. Girls like her, simply haven’t had this shot before.

As one of the 28 remaining hopefuls in the all-new women-only W Series, Megan’s working all hours of the day (and night) to make the final cut.

With the prospect of an all-expenses-paid-for drive in one of racing’s most exciting new adventures, 18-year-old Megan is pushing harder than ever before.

“I want to be a Formula 1 driver one day,” she says with certainty. “It’s always been my dream to race at the top of motorsport.”

She fell in love with life in the fast lane thanks to her dad who was a semi-professional driver in America. Megan used to cheer him on at the track when she was “just a little girl”, and she quickly got hooked on the adrenaline.

“Growing up, I used to see some of his races and when I was nine, I had the chance to try out a kart for the first time,” she says. “As soon as I drove, I loved it.”

From that point on, there was no stopping an enthusiastic Gilkes.

She admits that compared to other racers she’s inexperienced. Although that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t had success. In her first year of single-seater racing, Megan walked away with two second place finishes in two separate championships in a male-dominated environment. Not bad for someone who’d driven nothing other than a kart until this point.

“In 2017 I was second in the Sports Car Club of America and the South East Majors. Last year I was runner up in the Canadian F1200 series, despite not having done all of the rounds,” she says. “I’ve won five races in single seaters.”

Now, Megan continues to chase the motorsport dream thousands of miles away from her hometown, where she’s studying towards a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. If she doesn’t make it as a professional driver, then the brown-eyed youngster is insisting that she’ll still call F1 home.

“My degree is challenging, especially trying to balance everything with the racing as well,” she says before admitting that she still hasn’t got used to the dreary British weather. “I find it quite difficult, but I keep pushing. Engineering is applicable to the racing but I don’t have too much trouble at the moment with balancing the two. Let’s hope it stays that way.”

Until that chance is ruled out, Megan is putting her all into the W Series selection process. At the end of January, she and 53 other qualifiers from around the world headed to Austria to participate in 10 intense challenges.

She found out about the new initiative from her brother, while travelling to university lectures in London. With the W Series’ aim to promote women in the industry, Megan eagerly jumped at the chance.

“He gave me a call and told me to look on the internet at a new European series that was only for women,” she says. “It was going to be a free ride for anyone that got into it, and he said that I’d be interested in it. When I saw it, I knew it was for me. I applied as soon as I could and they accepted my application. They mostly asked about my racing experience to date, and my results to see who would be qualified to race a Formula 3 car. I got an email from them to say that I’d been chosen to go through and I was so excited.”

When she received the good news, she put her head down and grafted hard to ensure that she was ready for the most “important days” of her life to date.

“The test in Austria was being carried out in road cars, so I tried to get as much seat time as possible,” she recalls. “All of my racing so far has been done in single-seaters so I spent two half days at a race track in the U.S. just getting some laps in.

“One day it was wet and one day it was dry, so it was good to get some experience in different conditions. I also drove my mum’s Mini Cooper at a local circuit while I was back in Canada for the Christmas holidays and I actually wore out the new winter tyres that she’d just had put on.”

In Austria the hopefuls were judged by four giants of the sport, including ex-F1 driver David Coulthard, Le Mans winner Alex Wurz and – Megan’s ultimate idol – female IndyCar racer Lyn St James.

Megan will head to Spain in March for the final part of the W Series tests, where she has her heart set on a race seat for 2019.

“St James was talking about how the passion for racing comes from deep within all of us and that really stood out,” she says fondly. “It’s absolutely true. I was there because I love racing and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

How to break into motorsport journalism

The media industry is a notoriously tough place to break into, and motorsport journalism is not an exception to that rule in the slightest. While there are no set formulas to getting your foot firmly in the Formula 1 paddock, we’ve spoken to a budding Spanish journalist to find out how she managed to get her first couple of FIA accredited races.

Sofia Tera has been determined to call the Formula 1 paddock her home for several years now. Since the age of just seven, she can recall watching racing on the television at home. Back then she preferred two wheels to four, but she says that the tables have turned now.

Writing quickly became a hobby of hers as she entered her teenage years, and it all stemmed from there.

“I cover mainly Formula 1, but one of my favourite motorsport series to cover is Formula 2,” Sofia tells Females in Motorsport. “I have always liked Formula 2. The racing is close and there are a lot of hungry young drivers that could become the future of Formula 1. It’s a very interesting and fun series that deserves attention.”

Sofia writes for a Spanish motorsport and motoring website, where she can be called upon to write anything from in-depth features to breaking news stories. During her time at CarandDriver.es, she has learnt to be versatile in her approach, a skill that she considers key when it comes to motorsport journalism.

 

Credit: Roksana Cwik

 

“It’s a very demanding job,” she says. “You have strange working hours since the racing activities take part mainly during weekends and you need to stay alert during the rest of the week waiting for news to create content. Therefore, you have to be versatile. Motorsport media consumes a lot of time every day and you don’t have a clear departure time because a big story could happen at any hour of the day. Also, you need to take care of your contacts and sources. Networking needs a lot of your time too.”

When looking at the key skills a journalist should have, she feels that it all comes down to being a good listener.

“A journalist needs good communication skills because you need to know how to ask the right questions to receive the answers you are looking for, but you also need to be a good listener,” she says. “People usually focus on how you have to talk, but it’s very important to know how to listen. Good knowledge of what you’re reporting about (motorsport in this case) is essential. Curiosity and interest are two very important features of a journalist too. And this might sound very basic, but a journalist needs to have a passion for the job.”

Being an international member of the press, Sofia strongly recommends being able to speak a second language – it has certainly helped her on her road to success.

“Speaking several languages is crucial in our lives, not only in motorsport,” she says. “Media is essentially all about communication, and you need to know languages to build relationships or simply ask questions. A lot of people think that speaking English is enough, but the need for speaking more than two languages is increasing everywhere. Motorsport is no exception with the big number of nationalities involved in racing all around the world. It has helped me to communicate and be more confident in general.”

 

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Sofia in the Formula 1 paddock

 

With the highs that come from landing your dream job, there are – of course – struggles on the way. Many people who work in the industry describe what a tough and challenging road it can be to getting recognised. But, it is important to not give up on your dreams.

“There were some critical moments where I was close to giving up,” Sofia says. “I felt I had nowhere to go and my situation wasn’t improving at all. I really thought all my effort wasn’t worth it. Media is a very difficult job, especially for young journalists because people usually don’t take us seriously. And I said, motorsport consumes a lot of your time. It’s really tough to make a living from racing. One day, I convinced myself that I had to keep on working. I am fortunate enough to write about something I like so much. Even if it’s demanding, I love motorsport. I can’t see myself having another job. It’s my passion and I really want to be in the motorsport world. I feel like that’s where I belong.”

With Sofia’s role, she has now attended three grand prix as press and two pre-season tests. Her favourite thus far has been the Italian event last year, and she describes the weekend as “magic”.

“The fans are great, the track is amazing and the last race had a lot of action and drama,” she says. I had the chance to see the podium from the media center and it was one of the most beautiful experiences. The fans on track, with all their flags and banners, the drivers celebrating, the atmosphere… It’s unique.”

Sofia has great advice for those wanting to break into the industry. She says that having your own blog is a good place to start. There you can find your own style while writing about things that interest you.

“A blog is good because you are the one who decides what to write about,” she says. “Once you have found and improved your style, you can write for websites as a volunteer. This may create bigger exposure for you as a writer. With hard work, people will begin to recognise your writing which can lead to the chance of writing for bigger websites.”

In order to be constantly improving your writing, Sofia says it’s paramount to read the work of other journalists who are already successful in the field.

“You need to read lots of articles and analyse what structures and tones they’re using,” she says. “You can analyse what works and try to add that to your skills. Of course, don’t copy, but create your own twist on things. I still do this, because your writing skills improve with every piece you read and write. You never stop learning, especially in journalism.”

You can follow Sofia on Twitter here.

The art of motorsport perfume

There are many avenues to find a route into motorsport and designing perfume is no exception. A niche idea created by Katie Forman has seen her brand grow with motorsport fans and enthusiasts.

Females in Motorsport got handed a sample of her work at a Dare To Be Different community event before Christmas. From that moment onwards, we fell in love with Petrolhead, a fragrance that promises – and delivers – to be bold and fearless.

“A couple of years ago, I had just had a hip operation from a sporting injury and was recovering on the sofa thoroughly fed up and decided to google: “how to make your own perfume in the UK”,” Katie tells us. “I came across The Cotswolds Perfumery and fired off an email asking if I could make a perfume, thinking it was a long shot and thought nothing more about it. But I quickly got a reply saying yes they could help and did I want to arrange a meeting. When I was up and driving again I hopped in the car and drove to the Cotswolds thinking I would make my perfume and come home again. How wrong I was!”

 

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The face behind the creation

 

By the time Katie got home from that first meeting, she’d turned a small idea into a plan for a big adventure – a perfume brand with a difference. ByKathryn had been made.

Once her niche idea was created, she set about brainstorming for her first product. Soon enough, Petrolhead was born.

“Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful and it can instantly trigger a memory,” Katie says. “When I wear perfume I am creating those memories and I wanted to create perfumes that were all about the vibe, the mood, the memory. Perfumes with attitude.”

With Petrolhead, Katie knew that she would be pushing the boundaries. It was brave, bold and unique.

“I thought it would be fun to take on one of the biggest stereotypes of them all; and because I am a Formula 1 fan and decided to call my first perfume Petrolhead – which means a car fanatic and is usually associated with men,” she says. “I thought: Why not take this and turn it on its head and create a perfume that was for women who write their own rules! But more than that, I wanted Petrolhead to reflect the motorsport world where men and women can compete together – as Petrolhead has citrus top notes and spicy bottom notes, with jasmine and rose in the middle I created a perfume designed for women but men wear it too. My motto is: if you like it wear it.”

Katie has been following Formula 1 for over a decade now. When she was younger, she used to compete in equestrian events. Surprisingly, she noticed how there were many parallels between the two sports despite them seeming very far apart to the naked eye.

“In equestrian, men and women compete together; gender isn’t an issue,” she says. “Although you were the one in control of the horse you relied on teamwork to get you there and months of dedication and preparation. One tiny thing could go wrong on the day and scupper your chances, but when it all came together and you succeeded the feeling was amazing, but it was more than just about you.

“When I discovered Formula 1 there was so much about it that resonated. The adrenaline, the danger, the quick-mindedness of the driver, the teamwork, the setup of the car, adapting to the weather and the circuit. I loved that motorsport was open to men and women – I was just sad that more women weren’t competing. But in the time since I have been following Formula 1 and started looking at the other classes, more and more talented women are moving up through the ranks. It has been wonderful to see.”

 

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Katie’s two perfumes: Padstow Rocks and Petrolhead

 

Her creation Petrolhead is all about writing your own rules and with that, Katie hopes to play a part in empowering women to achieve their dreams.

“I would like my perfume to inspire women to think “yes I can do that!” if they want to,” she says. “Even if there aren’t many women doing it. To question when someone tells them they can’t and to dig deep and see what they are made of – to dream big! 

“I have always worked and competed in fairly male-dominated worlds, but it has been important to me to keep my identity and femininity. I worked as a groundskeeper for a tree surgeon for a couple of years and I did all the heavy lifting and jobs the boys would do but I had long blonde hair and I wore perfume and makeup – not that it lasted long! I didn’t try to be a boy, I was simply me doing a job. Why make it more complicated?”

In terms of who inspires Katie to be pushing her own boundaries, she says Susie Wolff is an important role model to her.

“I was sad to see her hang up her racing boots but what she did, and indeed is doing with Dare To Be Different, for women in motorsport is brilliant,” she says. “In fact, I have started collaborating with Dare To Be Different and Petrolhead as we have very aligned missions although from very different start points.”

With that in mind, 2019 will see Katie working hard to design a new perfume creation.

You can take a look at Petrolhead and Katie’s other creations here.

Jess Shanahan on how to get paid to race

Jess Shanahan is the ultimate definition of a female boss. At the age of just 30, she’s run magazines, edited several blogs, ran a successful racing team and – to top it all off – created a brand that is going from strength to strength.

Racing Mentor is a tool that is designed to help people from all backgrounds of motorsport. Whether you’re a budding PR or wanting help with sponsorship, Jess draws on her own experience to deliver you results.

Having gone from writing books at a very young age for fun, Jess now has a work of her very own published.

“I wanted to give drivers a more well-rounded view on what it takes to get sponsorship,” Jess tells Females in Motorsport. “It’s not just about sending a really pretty proposal document to a business that‘s relevant to what you’re into; it’s about building a profile for yourself and creating a status as an influencer.”

‘Get Paid To Race’ is the one-stop guide to become the best marketable racing driver you can become.

“The books starts by showing a driver how to build their profile – mainly by using social media and press coverage,” Jess says. “It then helps you to establish your niche and explains how to develop that. The book then goes into how to identify your sponsors and how to pitch to them.

“It also looks at how to maintain a sponsor, so you can hold onto them so they grow with you. The whole idea is to build such a big brand for yourself so companies eventually come to you.”

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The cover of ‘Get Paid to Race’

With all of her experience working in motorsport media, Jess understands the importance of getting the sponsorship process right. It’s not just about sending a well-designed proposal document; you have to build a reputable brand for yourself.

“When you take that proposal document to someone, they already know who you are, they’re already rooting for you, and they already think that you can do great things for their business,” Jess says. “It’s about teaching racing drivers the same business skills they may use if they were trying to sell a product.”

Racing Mentor was founded just over two years ago with one goal in mind: to help people become the most successful versions of themselves. It all started when Jess was running Turn Eight Racing. She had drivers approaching her asking if she could help them source sponsorship. Having found success for a few people, Jess realised that she couldn’t help everyone.

“I set out to create something that would help more people and teach them the business skills needed for them to pick up that sponsorship,” Jess says. “I just want to have more people think like businesses, get sponsorship, and get on track.”

As Racing Mentor blossoms, Jess has ambitions to run another racing team in the future.

“I want to maybe dip into that in 2019, and then do something bigger the following year,” she says. “I have a big vision of running a multi-car race team where I can subsidise talented drivers with the sponsorship that I’ve brought in and teach them to do the same.

“When they get to the level of where they need to bring in big sponsorship, they’re able to do that. It needs to be a process of the driver looking for sponsorship – however large – and I want the team to be able to do that.”

Jess understands that this is a big project but knows that it could be very successful.

“In the first instance, it would be at a grassroots level to test the concept and bring some sponsorship onboard,” she explains. “From there, we can maybe gain a Racing Mentor foothold higher up the ladder and keep on climbing. It’ll definitely be a progression rather than an all at once thing. I love the idea of the drivers progressing through the ranks and teaching them as they go.”

And the championship she’d like to run a team in? Well, the Citroen C1 series has caught her attention.

“The grids are massive and the cars are cool,” she says. “The Mazda championships generate good racing too. The next year coming is going to be a big research year with me working out what works best with my audience and the drivers.”

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Jess at the Motorsport Days Live event where she launched ‘Get Paid To Race’

Jess is also very knowledgeable when it comes to social media. She’s utilised her own expertise to make sure people in the industry are making the most out of the likes of Twitter.

“You need to get excited about using social media,” Jess says. “So if you only have time for one, then make the most of it and maximise your activity. If a driver knows that their target market is based on Twitter, then you should try there. It all depends on what works for you and how you can utilise each platform.”

While it may sound daunting at first, motorsport is renowned for being a tough industry. That’s why Jess thinks that you should never give up on your dreams.

“Motorsport is an incredibly competitive world, although there are avenues out there that people don’t necessarily look at,” she says. “If there’s a series you want to aim for, never give up and never let anyone tell you no.”

Whatever the future holds, Jess just wants to keep on reading the success stories that have happened.

“It’s amazing that the book is helping people and I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Jess says. “I started this because I wanted to see people succeed. I want to share my knowledge to help people. It’s lovely that I’ve been able to turn it into a business, but the best thing is reading the feedback.”

You can buy the book here.

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky: “Red Bull and my team feel like family”

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s road to success has been full of twists and turns. After a difficult couple of years, a last-minute drive in the 2018 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship – STCC – saw the Swedish driver bounce back. With a race win this season and a top 10 championship finish, Mikaela is more determined than ever to achieve her goals while maintaining a happy and healthy state of mind.

Despite being from a motorsport-orientated family with both of her parents, her grandfather and brother all drivers, Mikaela recalls having no interest in racing when she was growing up. In fact, she “resented it”.

“I didn’t want to go with my brother to the karting races he had or go to the rally in the town where I grew up in Sweden,” she says.

However, this all changed when her brother went to sell his kart.

“As his little sister, I was used to getting his old stuff,” she says. “I remember sitting at the table saying “hey, I should get the kart!” – I don’t know why I said it, but I know that I protested to get it. In the end I got it and went karting. I also liked it, after all!

“I was never pushed or forced to start motorsport, so the passion that I have for it has been founded by me. That’s important.”

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Mikaela and her team via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Since discovering that she was fast in a kart, Mikaela decided to follow the path that led her to touring cars. While it wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, she felt the cost involved in single-seaters was too high.

“It was quite obvious for me as I knew that if I wanted to go racing I would have to finance it myself with sponsors,” she says. “Looking at the prices in single-seaters going all the way up to being a paid driver is huge. Touring cars are expensive, but it’s not on the same level in my eyes.”

2018 has seen Mikaela flourish with PWR Racing. With one retirement out of 12 starts, she has proven her ability to be consistently quick under race conditions. To top it all off, she won the second race at Sweden’s most prestigious track – Karlskoga Motorstadion.

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All smiles via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

“It’s been my best season to date,” she says. “I wasn’t certain that I was going to race this year and it really was a last-minute call that I would be the fourth car in the team. Up until March, the plans were all up in the air. I’d had two tough years previously, and I just wanted to have some fun this year. If I didn’t enjoy it, I knew that I would stop at the end of 2018.

“I had a fantastic time with my team and we worked with a step-by-step plan for each weekend. I wanted to finish in the top 10 and I finished 10th overall. I do wish that it would’ve been higher. I never dreamed of a win, though.”

After months of uncertainty, Mikaela’s win has been made official. After the race back in August, an appeal was made by another team about the exhaust system on her PWR car. Two weeks ago, the appeal was dropped and Mikaela’s win stands.

“I knew from the start that I deserved that win,” she says. “There was nothing wrong with the exhaust system and I knew that there was no advantage to be gained from it. From my side, I knew that on that day and in that race, I was the quickest. I had the most consistent laps and I didn’t make any mistakes – I had a great race. I’ve always seen myself as a winner in that round, despite what the ruling could’ve said. Now it’s all finalised, it’s relieving and I’m happy that I have the win back.”

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The power of motorsport via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Although nothing is confirmed for 2019, Mikaela is adamant that she will be back out racing again, with the end goal of making it to the World Touring Car Championship – WTCR – when the cars make the switch to electric powered engines.

“My goal is to continue in the STCC with PWR,” Mikaela says. “In the future, I want to go into the WTCR when they make their switch to electric cars.

“They will be different as they will be rear-wheel driven, but if I continue with PWR then they know what I’m like as a person and how I work so they will support me. If we get a plan together then I’m 100 percent certain that we’ll make it.”

Mikaela headed to Spain a couple of months ago to take part in the first FOA women drivers assessment programme test.

Ran by the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative, Mikaela tested two types of machinery, including a single seater. Accompanying her were 14 other drivers, including Tatiana Calderon, Jamie Chadwick and Christina Neilson.

“I loved how supportive the other girls were,” she says. “We had lots of chats about our experiences as we’re all in different forms of racing and it’s not that often that we’re able to talk to each other. A few of my friends back home try their best to understand what my life is like, but they never get the full picture. It was fun to be able to discuss racing with other girls and exchange our different experiences.”

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Having fun – Mikaela and other drivers at the FIA test via FIA.com

Mikaela also maintains the importance of programmes that the FIA is working on in the bid to try and get more females involved in motorsport.

“The work that they’re doing – in particular the Girls on Track – to get more females into motorsport is so good,” Mikaela says. “I always get asked why there aren’t more girls in motorsport, and media campaigns and initiatives have a big impact. They show that women can be in motorsport and we can be as good as and if not better than the boys.”

However, Mikaela’s opinion is more divided when it comes to the new female-only W Series that will take to the track next year.

“It’s a good way for women to get into motorsport if you don’t have the budget or means to get into a mixed series,” she says. “You can show your potential in a single seater too.

“In my opinion, it won’t solve the problem of getting a female F1 driver. There’s so much more to racing than just winning one race and one championship. That’ll take you one step closer but that isn’t necessarily enough. You need to physically prepare for a big series and you need the full package, equipped with a good mentality and the right contacts.”

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Mikaela and the other ladies at the FIA test day via fia.com

2016 and 2017 were difficult periods for Mikaela, and she isn’t afraid to admit it. A constant source of pressure meant that racing became too much and a step back was needed. However, the 25 year-old has learnt from her past experiences to ensure her mental state is on par with her physical.

“I lost myself during those two difficult years,” she says. “Things got very big in such a short amount of time. I got lots of partners and it all got incredibly serious. It got too much for me to be able to handle. When I got stressed, I lost the joy of what I did. Like in all disciplines, you need the time to rest – I didn’t have this. I was constantly on the go. I’m a lot stronger now and, more importantly, I’m a lot happier.”

Her journey means that she knows motorsport isn’t always an easy ride and, despite the difficult times, she doesn’t want people to “feel sorry” for her and instead wants people to learn that it’s okay to “lose sight of your passion”.

“The road to success isn’t the same for everyone,” she says. “For some people, just having motorsport all of the time is their route. I learnt that this method wasn’t mine as it didn’t work out. For me to succeed, I need the balance and to have down time with friends and family. It’s okay to have a different way of living your life within motorsport. The same method doesn’t work for all of us.”

Now, Mikaela is a member of the Red Bull Family and they work together as a partnership. She speaks highly of them, and describes Red Bull and her team PWR as being a family.

“With Red Bull and my team, it feels like they’re my family,” she says. “I enjoy coming into each race weekend or event because I can be myself. I feel so comfortable. It’s vital to me to have fun otherwise I won’t produce the results. It’s all about balance.

“When I was really down last Autumn, I didn’t think that Red Bull would continue their partnership with me. They told me that they believed in me and my strength and talent. It was Red Bull and PWR who kept me going in those times. Red Bull are doing some amazing things that are really out there. If you have a crazy idea, they listen. They may change some things but they’ll always try and make it happen.”

As her plans for next year get finalised, we look forward to cheering her on!

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The ladies behind the all-female endurance racing team

An all-female racing team will enter the competitive 6 hour Ford Fiesta Endurance race which will take place in Ireland next month. The ladies will represent females in Irish motorsport as they make history and become the first women only team ever to compete in the event at Mondello Park’s international circuit.

Women in Motorsport Racing will be made up of four formidable ladies – Emma Dempsey, Ruth Nugent, Aimee Woods and Nicola Watkins – all of whom have previous racing and motorsport experience.

This event is one of the highlight’s on the Irish motorsport calendar, with ex-Formula 1 drivers among this year’s competitors.

Who are the ladies that will be racing?

Emma Dempsey is no stranger to racing, and has strong motorsport links in her family. Her father was a successful driver – Cliff Dempsey – and now Emma is following in his footsteps, making a name for herself. After a break from competing, Emma returned to the fast lane this year. She works as a mechanic on her father’s racing team, preparing the race winning single seaters.

Ruth Nugent has been a dedicated motorsport marshal for over 12 years now, volunteering at many motorsport events. In her first year of competitive motorsport, she finished in the top 10 of the Irish Ford Zetec Championship, where five rounds were held across Mondello Park and another Irish circuit.

Aimee Woods is a driver instructor at Mondello Park and has competed in various championships throughout her life. Like Emma, she was born into a motorsport family and her father is a successful racing driver.

Completing this highly experienced team is PR manager Nicola Watkins, who has raced in the Irish Ford Zetec Championship since its launch in 2013. Prior to that, Nicola commenced track racing in Irish Strykers.

This racing team will be prominent in the fight to encourage more diversity in the sport.

“To have the very first team of females enter this six hour race means so much to all of us as drivers,” Emma Dempsey told Females in Motorsport. “We are supporting one another on our journey and hoping that this continues into the future. We will be up against some of Ireland’s greatest racing drivers, so know it’s going to be a tough battle, but it all comes down to getting to the end of the race with no drama.

“We all get on really well and have great personalities in our team. We’re out to have fun and to try do our very best.”

With the ladies all familiar with motorsport paddocks, they’ll give their competitors a good run for their money while celebrating the ever-growing number of women that are now competing in motorsport.

The team will showcase their talent at the 6 hour Ford Zetec Endurance Race which takes place on Sunday 4th November at Mondello Park.

Meet one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers

“I love driving a car as fast as possible on a closed road with no oncoming traffic or distractions – there’s no feeling quite like it!” Emma Gilmour, one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers, tells us.

“Add into the challenge of gravel and slippery surfaces and the feeling of dancing a car through acceleration and braking is unbeatable…”

New Zealand-born Emma Gilmour made her rally debut in 2002 at the Targa Bambina. Since then, she has been impressing with her skill and determination to take on some of the toughest rally stages in the world.

Through competing in FIA (the International Governing body for Motorsport) sanctioned events like the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, she has been able to net some excellent results while running her very own car dealership.

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Photo via Emma

In 2009, she finished second in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has been recognised as the ‘top female rally driver’ at World Rally Championship events.

“I started co-driving for my sister, and then I finally had a go at driving and was hooked,” she says.”I think people are still surprised when they find out my passion. I think it’s regarded as a dangerous sport, but the horse riding I did before motorsport is much more dangerous.

“Our cars are built very safe and we take a lot of safety precautions. Driving every day is probably more risky!”

Emma has lots of brilliant motorsport memories and she has so “too many great rallies to choose from”. However, the WRC Finland will always hold a place close to her heart for “it’s truly special because of the nature of the roads and the passionate spectators”.

She competed in the Finnish event in 2006, where her and Claire Mole won stages in the Ford Fiesta – it was also the first event that they had ever competed in together.

“It was a very special event and I really hope to compete there again in the future,” she says.

The rally driver also regards desert racing as a favourite of hers, especially competing in Qatar, a place far from her home on the other side of the world.

“Desert racing in Qatar is has to be a highlight,” she says. “It was hugely challenging and so different to what I normally do. I can’t not mention doing the X Games in America as part of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series as a fantastic moment too. It was also hugely special.”

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Credit: Phil Walter

But, like with all sports, rallying can have a downside too. The engineering that goes into the cars is complex and a simple fault can spell out disaster for a competitor.

“Having to rely on a mechanical object to show your true ability is tough,” she says. “It can be so heartbreaking to be having a great event and then for something to break on your car.”

Emma also points out that the smallest of mistakes can lead to big repercussions, as you can pay a “big price for making a tiny error”.

Aside from this, Emma is adamant that women can be as competitive as men when it comes to rallying – Emma herself is a great example of this. “We need more women starting out in motorsport,” she says.

Despite being in the rallying game for over a decade and a half, she’s certain that there’ll be lots more motorsport adventures to come.

“I still want to compete in the WRC again – ideally in an R5 car,” she says. “I know I am a much better driver than the last time I competed in the WRC.”

This year she has been one of only two women competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship, where she is currently sixth in the standings with one weekend to go.

We wish Emma the best of luck!